8 October 2014
STEPHEN’S POND LEAN-TO to LONG LAKE VILLAGE (18.2 miles + side trip)
After a restless night with Stephen The Mouse, I was ready to leave Stephen’s Pond Lean-to early on our fifth day. G stayed back to make himself coffee, and I started north toward Lake Durant.
The trail was relatively dry, and slightly downhill, making for pleasant hiking. I took a self-portrait where the trail took a turn toward Lake Durant Public Campground. Taking a look at the photo, I saw that I looked about as tired as I felt. There were bags under the bags under my eyes.
After 3.4 miles of pleasant walking, we entered Lake Durant Public Campground through a gate next to this amazing hemlock tree.
The campground would have been a great place for a picnic lunch and a dip in the lake, but it was raining again and there was a cold wind. We continued on, crossing NY 28/30 without pausing.
The trail passed through former logging land, now owned by The Nature Conservancy, for 3.4 miles before reentering forest preserve. Here, not in the logging company land, there are old tree plantations of fir.
These conifer gardens have an unnatural look to them, but the ground is often soft and dry, making for easy walking compared with the rustic boardwalks, mud-filled swales, and slippery (but beautiful) foot bridges.
In the afternoon, we reached an area where the trail has been completely flooded out by beavers. This area was called out in our guidebook, already seven years old, and the herd path around it was clear. We made our way around and met back up with another old logging road. This one was particularly rutted, perhaps from more recent use by four-wheelers, and it was a relief when the trail reached a well-maintained dirt road.
In the late afternoon, we began ascending the ridge of Blue Mountain. It began raining steadily. I had been wearing my rain gear for most of the day, but G paused to switch from his vest to his windbreaker. The trail from here was beautiful and interesting, and it felt good to climb uphill. Along the way is this unusual meadow on the edge of conifer forest. Another consquence of beaver activity.
It would have been ideal to find a place to camp soon after this meadow, but we did not come across any flat camping spots. We were still ascending the ridge of Blue Mountain, when we got ourselves into a dangerous situation. G’s windbreaker is comfortable and good at keeping out cold breezes, but it is cotton lined. For a time, this was alright, as we were moving steadily, but after several hours with wet shoulders he started to become chilled. He did not want to put on more of his non-cotton layers, because he was worried that he would be left with no dry clothes for the night. In addition to this, G had not eaten for several hours. It is difficult to stop and get food out of your pack when you are already cold and it is raining. G is an experienced hiker who spends most of his life outside. He knows the signs of hypothermia, and feeling cold and tired himself, he paused to ask me how I was doing. Wrapping in my rain gear, I was warm and felt more energized that earlier in the day.
“I’m fine,” I said, “but I am worried about you. I think that you should put on more layers. If they get wet, you can just take everything off and get in your sleeping bag tonight.”
G realized that this was true, and took off his wet coat to add a long sleeve shirt and vest. I gave him the rest of a chocolate bar and a few pieces of dried fruit. The added layers and the snack made a world of difference. In a few minutes, G was already feeling better. With renewed energy, we decided that pressing on to Long Lake would be the best. There were no camping sites near the trail, and the steady precipitation made the idea of setting up camping unpleasant anyway. After all of my grumping about hiking at night, G was surprised that I was enthusiastic about this idea. We turned on his cellphone and were able to call the Adirondack Hotel to find our when they were open until and reserve a room. The woman at the front desk said that we had until 10 pm to make it to the hotel, and until 9 pm to make it to the restaurant. Knowing that the restaurant might still be open if we hurried was enough to convince G and I to pick up our pace. We completed the climb of the Blue Mountain Ridge at our fastest pace of the whole trip, and then began the descent as though we were racing. When we reached a flat area again, it was dark. We had to cautiously navigate half a mile of slippery bog bridges to the road with our headlamps. They seemed to go on forever.
After reaching the road, we had 1.5 miles to Long Lake Village, and then another mile to the Adirondack Hotel. Fortunately, the road was repaved over the summer, and the shoulder was smooth. The moon was full and reflected off of the wet pavement. We have both driven this road before, and G has also biked this section of it on a tour, but walking the shoulder gave a completely different perspective.
It was after 7:30 by the time that we arrived at the hotel, and we were exhausted and sore. We checked in with the welcoming woman at the front desk before making the difficult climb to our room on the second floor. (It turned out that she and her daughter had hiked the NPT from Long Lake to Lake Placid in 2013, and she was eager to hear about our experience.)
The Adirondack Hotel was built at the turn of the last century, and, amazingly, has not burned down yet. The room that we stayed in was small, with a simple bed and dresser; no television or personal bathroom.
After a quick clean-up, we made our way down to the restaurant on the ground floor. Between the two of us, we devoured a salad, two burgers, 3 beers, and a 16 inch pizza. (Eating impressive amounts is normal for G, but I was impressed with my own appetite after less than a week of walking.) Sitting in our chairs after dinner, I felt that there was nothing left in the world that I wanted more than 12 hours in a warm dry bed.
Rising from our table, we looked the perfect part of Sore Hikers. The After-Dinner-Stiff-Hiker-Walk is always amusing as well as painful, and we made our way up the stairs laughing and groaning. G said that he had never felt so stiff in his life before.
85.2 total miles